Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The temptation of "danger"

It seems like the topic of kids and "danger" (I use quotations on purpose because danger is a subjective topic) has risen to the surface of popular discussion on the Internet lately, or I've just run across it often enough to notice.  Many adults fear things children do that others would laugh at or think is no big deal.  From using scissors, to climbing trees, to using real tools, playing outside unsupervised, helping cook near a hot stove or grill, and even playing with sticks.  An adults perspective on potential dangers changes when they become a parent or have been entrusted with the care of another's child, the intensity just varies from person to person.

As for me I believe kids need to be exposed to a little "danger."  My husband and I let our son play outside for as long as he likes with the other neighborhood children on the weekend with no adult supervision.  Some would be horrified by hearing this but there was much preparation and trust that went into it.
  1. We live on a pretty quiet street with little car traffic.
  2. The other children are older than him ranging in age from five to eleven.
  3. We talked with him several times, set up rules and expectations before this started, where his boundaries are, asking or checking in with us before he does something else (there is a pond a few houses down the kids like to walk around and throw rocks into).
  4. We've set up an area in the garage where he can access his toys.  Items not for children are secured elsewhere; an area that is discussed about with him as well.
  5. We do still check on him from time to time, we have not completely lost our minds or our common sense.
Our son has broken the rules twice and we have not had any issues since, but we expected this to happen because children do get caught up in the moment and forget, or test out the boundaries to see how firm they are.  Why do we even let him do this?  We want him to know that we trust and respect his capabilities by giving him this kind of freedom.  It builds his confidence, his independence, and even more importantly his social skills.  I have overheard many conversations among the children where negotiating, compromising, and problem solving have taken place instead of one of the children running to me to try and solve the problem.  Those skills are tremendously important and used in our everyday adult lives!

Trusting and respecting a child's capabilities can be applied to using scissors, helping near the hot stove, climbing trees, or any "danger," but setting up expectations before you begin and giving a child the chance to try are key.   One of my favorite quotes, which I feel fits right into this topic is "If you don't prepare you repair."  Otherwise you will never know, as well as the child, how much they can learn and the respect they can have for something, because before you know it they will be able to handle it on their own, or they will struggle when you expect them to do it as they get older.

For some there will be more tries and chances than others, children learn the limits of their own bodies through trial and error and build critical thinking skills as they learn how to do something safely.  Different levels of supervision will be involved and children at this age still need reminders.  Yes we really are "broken records" as some of our own mothers used to tell us.  I want to share with you some powerful words I ran across from another blogger on her Facebook page Let the children play.

If you don't trust your children they will invent their own dangers, because who doesn't enjoy a good thrill?  Don't you remember pretending to be a damsel in distress as you clung to the monkey bars ready to fall?  Or  a daredevil that jumps over mountains, and off the bed?  An imagination will take a child to those tempting things in life that have been deemed "dangerous."  Our own son has declared parking lots, mulch beds and certain grassy areas as pits of lava and gator filled waters that you must tread carefully around!

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